Joel Miller, owner of Sterling-Miller Designs Inc. in Brockton, Mass., began his career in the field of cabinet-making, much like many other solid surface fabricators; however, he has taken his work in a rather uncommon direction.
After completing Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, Miller landed a co-op position with a company that manufactured 18th century furniture reproductions, where his skills and flair for the artistic were honed and developed.
Fabricator Joel Miller developed a successful business, Sterling-Miller Designs, by finding a niche in complex, detailed work.
The focus on detail at Sterling-Miller Designs has lead to some distinctive projects, such as this custom Corian bracelet (top) designed by architect David Serero of Degre Zero Architecture (www.degrezero.com) for Metaring (www.metaring.com) and this UNA table (bottom) designed by Serero and architect John Beckman of Axis Mundi (www.axismundi.com).
"It was a good company, but unfortunately, at some point it turned into a sort of dead-end job," Miller explained. "So, I returned to school to see if there were any other co-op jobs. At that time Corian was something that was starting to become more and more popular and they sent me to a Corian fabrication shop."
He worked for that shop for five years, integrating his woodworking knowledge with new skills he was developing in the area of solid surface fabrication. About that time he took on an installation job in partnership with another company in a different part of the state. And that job became a catalyst for him to set off on his own path and pave his way into his own business.
"I worked on this particular installation job for eight months," said Miller. "And that allowed me to have an income while I got things set up for my own business and try to get the word out there a little bit."
Details, details, details
Using the skills he developed from working on intricate 18th century reproductions, Miller began forging a niche for his business, taking on difficult, detailed projects that other companies avoided. And that, along with some footwork, led him to a position over the next seven years in which custom work became 75 percent of his jobs.
"It is a financial necessity to take on some of the more typical work, but we don't make it our priority," he said. "The area we are in is a very concentrated area for fabricators. Part of what we do is out of desire to be different, but in the beginning it was a combination of being different and survival. We would do things other people couldn't do or weren't interested in doing and it allowed us to avoid having so much competition."